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It's safe to wear earplugs to sleep, but you want to avoid earplugs that work too effectively. Earplug varieties vary in noise reduction rating (NRR), with the highest on the market blocking out 33 dB (for reference, noise can have permanent damage on your hearing at 85 dB). “If there were an emergency such as a fire alarm, you would want to be able to wake to respond,” says Dr. Peters-Mathews. You’ll also want your earplugs to have a lower NRR if, say, you need to anticipate a hungry newborn’s cry in the middle of the night or hear your alarm in the morning.
While NRR labels are required by law on all hearing protectors sold in the U.S., everyone processes sound differently. You might wake up at the mere sound of a dog barking, while it could take a fog horn to stir your partner. To better gauge how your earplugs are performing, try the Sound Level Meter by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The free iTunes app, designed by sound engineers and hearing loss experts, accurately measures the amount of noise your custom made earplugs for sleeping are absorbing.
To test your responsiveness, Dr. Peters-Mathews recommends listening to the sound of your alarm clock while wearing your earplugs before you actually fall asleep. While sleeping with earplugs is certainly a helpful way to ward off disturbances and reduce overall stress, consult your primary care physician if insomnia persists, and discontinue use if you experience soreness, says Dr. Peters-Mathews.
Here are the top-rated earplugs for sleeping on Amazon that have given thousands of consumers the sweet, sweet relief of a good night’s sleep: